SOCIAL AMNESIA: A Critique of Conformist Psychology from Adler to Laing by Russell Jacoby

SOCIAL AMNESIA: A Critique of Conformist Psychology from Adler to Laing

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Reviewing post-Freudian thought from the standpoint of Herbert Marcuse and the Frankfurt School's Critical Theory, Jacoby attacks the ""pop existentialism and mysticism"" of modern psychology. All of it is tainted by a hatred of theory, expressed in the slogans ""end of ideology,"" ""future shock"" and ""counterculture."" This goes for David Cooper and R.D. Laing as well, ""whose work dribbles into blind therapy and positivism."" The book is focused not around Laing, but around more Freudian psychologists. Adler's nominally socialist banalities are rebutted with Freud's epithets; Jacoby marks Adler as the beginning of the Freudian epigones' apologies for an era of ""synchronized capitalism."" For the American motivational engineers like Gordon Allport and Abraham Maslow, Jacoby has boundless disgust: Maslow is ""a genius of bourgeois stupidity -- except that Maslow is no genius."" The book rejects not only capitalism but the idea of progress itself, reviving Marcuse's attack on Fromm for the latter's belief that it is possible to love. Jacoby's treatment of H.S. Sullivan, Wilhelm Reich and Theodor Adorno is a rambling, wholly unsatisfying account of human subjectivity and Marx' view of private property. ""Today human relations are irregulars and seconds at the closing days of the warehouse sale of life."" For all his scorn of anti-theoretical theorists, Jacoby hasn't exactly brought great conceptual weight to bear on the problems of psychology: in the last resort, he doesn't seem to believe in the science of psychology at all, and we are left with ""the potency of bourgeois society"" from which ""there is no escape, not even for those who resist.

Pub Date: March 14th, 1975
Publisher: Beacon